For several weeks in our church bulletin there was an announcement to host a group of international students in your home for a Thanksgiving feast. The idea was that these students will spend a year or more in our community and never actually step foot into a real home.
Ever since moving, I have felt so blessed by our house. It is not a giant house but the open space does allow for entertaining (even if the kitchen is quite small). I have tried to be open to how we could share our home with others, but so far no one has taken me up on the offer to move into our extra bedroom. I thought hosting a meal for international students was a good first step.
Brandon was not as excited when I mentioned it to him. In fact he thought it was a bad idea. Probably because the students were here to learn English and it would be challenging to converse with them. I sweetened the pot by adding that we would invite some friends of ours from church (fingers crossed that they would actually come). Plus, I said, remember when my mom used to host Japanese exchange students and how much my niece and nephew loved them? This will be so fun, and a good experience for our kids.
It wasn't until I was getting instructions on how to buy a Halal turkey and to definitely not cook any pork that I realized I may have made a mistake in who I thought would be coming over. It wasn't Japanese international students but rather students from Saudi Arabia.
And this is when I realized just how ignorant and biased I was towards people from the middle east. I have been reading the book, Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, and in it she talks about going out into your community and serving the least, the forgotten, the forsaken. For her it was walking alongside the homeless community and creating true relationships with them. Realizing that they have stories that are not so different from you and I. That by loving them she is truly living out God's message to serve the forsaken. When reading this in my small group a friend shared how she felt towards Muslims, and I remember thinking, 'huh, I don't know any but I am sure I am fine with them'.
Turns out that was not the case. As soon as I knew that we would be hosting students from the Middle East, I actually started to hope no one would show up. We live far from our church so transportation was an issue. Maybe we would just end up with a thanksgiving party with our friends. Wouldn't that be fun? It would, but that wasn't the point.
We got our list of names on Thursday, we said 4 students who could provide their own transportation. 5 signed up and 3 needed rides. And they were all men. This is when I truly started to panic, and all of my ignorance came to light. I don't even know how to refer to these men are they Arabic, Egyptian (so not right, but Jack did a great Egyptian dance for them), Muslim, Middle Eastern? How do I explain them and their customs to my boys?
The day finally arrived. I had emailed and called all the names on our list and had no response. I finally got an email from one of them asking for a ride. An hour before dinner was to be ready Brandon left to drive 35 minutes to pick up our guests. In a moment of panic I called a friend and left a rather crazy message that basically said, "what if they get in Brandon's car with a backpack. Should we ask to see inside?" You know in case they have a bomb. DO YOU SEE HOW INSANE I WAS? It was humbling to realize just how afraid I was.
In the end our fake thanksgiving was better then most of us expected. One of our friends said he didn't really think this would be fun but he was going to support our mission outreach, but it turned out to be really good. Our three guests were nice young men, who are far from home and their families. It made me sad to think of sending my (in the future) 19 year old son so far away to live and attend school. We talked, we laughed, we probably confused them with our quotes from Friends, and scared them with our food. Upon leaving all three guests said, "thank you for your hospitality". I hope they truly felt welcomed at our house.
It wasn't the experience I was expecting, and it wasn't quite a fake thanksgiving with strangers, but it was how we had, Sultan, Mohammed, and Turkey over for dinner.
|Welcome in Arabic|